You want frequent flyer status and all the perks that come with it, such as access to business class lounges, priority check-in and a boosted baggage allowance, even when flying in economy.
But you could do without flying all those bum-numbing miles just to pocket that shiny piece of plastic.
So here's a welcome shortcut: a special 'status challenge' promotion through which you can get Gold-grade frequent flyer status on a single international trip.
The airline offering this fast-track deal is American Airlines, with the prize of Platinum status in AA's AAdvantage frequent flyer scheme.
But because American Airlines is a Qantas partner and part of the Oneworld airline group, your status is mirrored across dozens of airlines – so you enjoy perks on all those airlines too.
AAdvantage Platinum status is equivalent to Gold with Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines, and Silver with British Airways for example.
(Across the entire Oneworld alliance, AAdvantage Platinum counts as a Sapphire tier to ensure your recognition as you travel the world.)
Sound good? Here's how it's done...
Status Challenge 101
A 'status challenge' is a fast-track to an elite frequent flyer tier.
Rather than qualifying for that status in the usual way of clocking up many flights, a status challenge lowers the requirements for that tier so that a lot less flying is needed.
If you're just starting to travel for work or are tired of sitting out in the terminal before your flights, completing a challenge is just the ticket for lounge access and more.
It's also a good option to have up your sleeve if you'll be moving airlines or alliances, such from Star Alliance airlines like Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways, to Oneworld carriers such as Qantas, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines.
(The 'challenge' concept is vastly different to the more common 'status match', whereby if you have an existing Gold or Platinum frequent flyer card with one airline, a competing airline may offer you instant Gold or Platinum status in their own frequent flyer program to entice you across.)
The AAdvantage Platinum status challenge: what you get
Whether flying with Qantas, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific or indeed any airline that's part of the Oneworld family, your journey begins with access to airport business class lounges wherever available, even when you're booked in economy.
Add to that: priority check-in and boarding via the business class lanes with Oneworld airlines, priority security screening prior to Qantas' Australian domestic flights and two free checked bags on American Airlines flights, even if your ticket doesn't include a baggage allowance.
Many airlines also reserve more favourable seats for Oneworld Sapphire frequent flyer members. For example, AAdvantage Platinum members can select extra-legroom 'Main Cabin Extra' seats at no charge on AA, with extra legroom seats also up for grabs on most Qantas domestic flights.
... and what you don't get
Just remember that AAdvantage Platinum is comparable to Qantas Gold, not Qantas Platinum, so you're a step down from that top rung on the Qantas Frequent Flyer ladder.
You also won't have lounge access in North America when travelling solely on a US domestic or short-haul itinerary.
For example, you'd have access to the American Airlines Admirals Club at LAX prior to AA's Los Angeles-Sydney flights or when connecting from the same, but if you were taking a standalone LAX-San Francisco flight, you'd be without a lounge.
Requesting your AAdvantage Platinum challenge
If you’re not already a member of AA’s AAdvantage frequent flyer program, sign up for free via the AA website and make a note of your membership number.
Then, give the USA AAdvantage team a call on +1 800 882-8880 (international call charges apply) between 1am and 12pm Sydney time (8am-7pm USA Central Time), Monday to Friday.
(American Airlines does have an Australian phone service but we've found the staff on the other end to be completely unaware of the fast-track deal, whereas the USA call centre staff proved much more knowledgeable.)
Provide your AAdvantage membership number to the automated voice service, ask for the "Platinum status challenge" when prompted and then say "speak to a representative" to get through to a real person.
The challenge attracts a non-refundable enrolment fee of US$200 (A$280).
After that, all you need to do is earn 12,500 of AA's special 'elite-qualifying miles' (EQMs) within 90 days on selected airlines – and AAdvantage Platinum / Oneworld Sapphire status is yours for a whole year.
Earning your AAdvantage Platinum EQMs
American Airlines elite-qualifying miles are similar to Qantas status credits – it's the 'currency' which AA uses to determine your frequent flyer status.
You can earn elite-qualifying miles on Qantas flights, at a rate of 1.5 EQMs per mile flown in Qantas first class, business class and premium economy, and up to 1 EQM per mile flown in economy:
To save you calculating the actual flight mileage: one return business class trip from Sydney to Asia or beyond – including the Americas, the Middle East and South Africa – earns all the EQMs you’ll need for Platinum status, and then some.
Stuck down the back? One Qantas return trip from Sydney to Los Angeles on the most flexible economy tickets would also do the trick, as would two returns on the same route on most other Qantas economy fares.
Better yet, take your Sydney-Los Angeles flight with American Airlines and you could notch up enough EQMs on any paid ticket – even the least expensive economy seat – to reach your AA Platinum / Oneworld Sapphire target:
Flights on British Airways, Finnair, Iberia and Japan Airlines also count towards your EQM tally, although not all Oneworld airlines qualify as part of the challenge mechanism – Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways are notable exceptions.
However, once you've hit the target and have unlocked your AAdvantage Platinum / Oneworld Sapphire status, you've unlocked perks across every Oneworld airline.
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